How to decode the coverage of Kim and Kanye West's rumoured divorce
By Emily Yahr
An hour before the polls closed in Georgia last Tuesday night and Americans braced for the results of one of the most consequential elections of in recent years, another story published that still managed to capture some attention.
"Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are getting a divorce: 'She's done.' "
That headline was courtesy of Page Six, which touted this exclusive report: Kardashian, 40, has "just had enough" of West, 43, and his attempts to run for president and erratic behaviour, and according to multiple anonymous sources, "divorce is imminent."
The story noted the support that she has given him through his struggles with mental health (West revealed his bipolar diagnosis in 2017), but added Kardashian's focus is now her quest to become a lawyer.
One source told the paper that settlement talks have already started and that Kardashian has hired divorce attorney Laura Wasser, who is famous for guiding Hollywood stars through complicated breakups. (A West source also got in a dig, noting he's over the family's obsession with their reality TV empire, which he thinks is "unbearable.")
Naturally, the possible breakup of one of our culture's highest-profile couples caused shock waves through the celebrity press - although the tabloids have been on high alert since the summer, when West kicked off his campaign for president with a controversial speech that left Kardashian reportedly "furious" after he told the crowd they considered terminating her pregnancy when she was expecting their first child. In now-deleted tweets, West claimed Kardashian was trying to get a doctor to "lock (him) up" and said he had wanted to divorce her for months.
But shortly after Page Six's report lit up social media, TMZ weighed in with its own exclusive: Not so fast! "Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have been in marriage counselling, and we've learned the subject of divorce was looming for much of 2020, but they haven't given up," the site explained under the headline "KIM AND KANYE in Marriage Counselling ... DIVORCE ON THE TABLE." The article also noted that West has been living at his ranch in Wyoming and Kardashian is staying in California with their four children. "We're told no final decision has been made."
An avalanche of competing information ensued and became a perfect encapsulation of what happens when a big Hollywood story breaks: Every other tabloid scrambles to post stories with their own takes and their own anonymous sources, and it quickly becomes very confusing. How does anyone decipher what is actually going on? (Representatives for Kardashian and West did not return requests for comment.)
In the case of the Kardashians, it's more clear-cut than you might expect. The most reliable source of information for the Kardashians is E!, which has been the home of their reality TV empire for 13 years. And when we say "reliable," we don't mean necessarily "100 percent true" - the network essentially operates as state media, and it's where the family can shape the story. So when you want to see the narrative framing that will probably show up on a future season of "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" (coincidentally or not, the final season is scheduled to air early this year), you can check out E! and its online offshoots.
Nearly two hours after Page Six's story hit the Web, E! Online published its offering: "Why Kim Kardashian Hasn't Officially Filed for Divorce From Kanye West," the headline read. The story confirmed that the pair is "effectively going their separate ways" after a six-year marriage, though an unnamed source explained that Kardashian is still waiting before she makes anything official because "she wants to make sure she's making the right decision for the kids."
Since then, E! has posted a flurry of stories from every angle imaginable as it attempts to truly corner the market on everything Kardashian: the hopeful (the couple is in marriage counseling trying to work things out); the ominous (Kardashian spotted not wearing her wedding ring); the wistful (a "romance rewind" and the couple's "cutest moments with their kids"); and even combing her Instagram for clues ("Kim Kardashian Shares How She's Getting Her 'Mind and Body Right' Amid Kanye West Divorce Speculation.")
And if you're wondering why this is all coming from the Kardashian perspective, there's a reason for that: Behind the scenes, the family and their team have a reputation for trying to control all aspects of stories about their personal lives. "Kris Jenner's Christian name is Multiple Sources," one popular tweet about Kardashian's mother read on Tuesday, succinctly capturing how the family operates.
People and Us Weekly - also known to have symbiotic relationships with the family - ran their own versions of the story that echoed the same details: Kardashian and West are living apart, nothing is official, a split appears inevitable. Then, in one mildly unexpected place, the "Today" show also published a confirmation of their separation, noting that the couple is in marriage counselling, crediting "a source close to the family."